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‘Cocaine Bear’ Smashes Into Theaters ~ At The Movies With Kasey

On a frigid winter night, I headed out for the first available showing of Cocaine Bear because my husband wanted me to review it. I asked if he wanted to come with me, but he clarified that he did not want to watch it, he wanted me to watch it. Cocaine Bear features the kind of absurd plot and eye-catching title perfect for word-of-mouth marketing, but I wondered: would it be another Sharknado or could it offer more, justifying an exclusive theater release?

Set in 1984 against a “Just Say No” context, Cocaine Bear, vaguely based on a true story, features a 500-lb black bear who gets addicted to cocaine. That setup is bad enough news for the bear, but she also goes on a murderous rampage. As the bear hunts for her next hit, Daveed (O’Shea Jackson Jr) and Eddie (Alden Ehrenreich) search for the cocaine, which Eddie’s father, Syd’s (Ray Liotta) smuggling operation dropped in the forest. Meanwhile, Sari (Keri Russell) searches for her daughter (Brooklyn Prince), and the park ranger (Margo Martindale) tries to get the animal specialist (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) to notice her.

Obviously, I expected a decent amount of campy gore. The movie delivers memorably violent but somehow still funny killings. The first half of the movie seems to follow the slasher movie playbook, with a killer lurking just offscreen, ready to grab hapless humans. Each time the bear showed her drugged-up face, it was a little funny. What I did not expect was a crime boss’s son trying to get out of the “family business” or a veteran detective (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) learning to love his shelter dog, Rosette. Finally, the story weaves in themes about parents and their cubs and respecting nature to give the story something resembling a point.

Even with all the endearing, horrific, and comical plot elements, Cocaine Bear never tries too hard. It lets a Cocaine Bear be enough. The actors do not swing for the fences, but they also do not phone it in. Keri Russell gives a charmingly natural performance for the circumstances and Ray Liotta, in one of his final roles, brings out both the funny and sinister elements in Syd. Under Elizabeth Banks’s direction, Cocaine Bear nods to the ridiculous, campy elements of the story without sacrificing telling a story with a tender heart underneath all those severed limbs.

Cocaine Bear was directed by Elizabeth Banks and written by Jimmy Warden. It runs 95 minutes and is rated R.

In Amazon’s Somebody I Used to Know, Ally (Allison Brie) heads home after the reality show she runs—Dessert Island—gets canceled. Unsure of what to do with herself, she reconnects with her old boyfriend, Sean (Jay Ellis), who is on the verge of marrying Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons). Trudging up old baggage and actively trying to ruin a wedding, Ally meanders her way through a plot that the bride-to-be savvily calls out as My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Somebody I Used to Know operates as an anti-romcom but also borrows beats from gross-out comedies to illustrate how depressing Ally’s life has become. She repeatedly walks in on her mom in flagrante and also suffers perhaps the most humiliating and disgusting in-flight mishap I have seen on film. Allison Brie performs this tension between comedy and drama skillfully, but she has more chemistry with Kiersey Clemons than with her alleged romantic counterpart. More than wanting them to end up together, I questioned why Ally and Sean were still hung up on each other. If the movie leaned more on this undercurrent, I think it would have been more successful in its attempts to subvert the romcom plot.

Even still, the film makes interesting points about what the genre asks female leads to sacrifice for romance. The conversations between Ally and Cassidy about their ambitions have more heart than the backstory about Sean feeling abandoned. These thematic elements are more interesting than the performances, the dark-hued cinematography, or the gross-out jokes. Somebody I Used to Know comes to a satisfying ending for all characters, which it earns, but it is not as good a movie as it could have been if it had let Brie be a little funnier or more dramatic instead of having one foot in each camp. Still, her silly made-up songs are the best part of all.

Somebody I Used to Know was written by Alison Brie and Dave Franco, who directed. It runs 106 minutes and is rated R.

Kasey Butcher

Kasey Butcher

She is proud to be a Ft. Wayne native, a graduate of Homestead HS, Ball State University & Miami University. She became involved with journalism editor-in-chief for her high school magazine. She authors the "At The Movies with Kasey Butcher" review. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer